Monday, December 27, 2010

Monday Movies Post

Well, I saw two Eddie Albert movies in the past week.  The better of the two was Escape From Witch Mountain...it's not as good as The Love Bug or The Parent Trap, but it sure is a lot better than most of that group.  But that's not what I'm going to write about.

No, today's movie has even less to do with politics than Witch Mountain.  It's Brother Rat and a Baby, from 1940, which is a sequel to 1938's Brother Rat, which is chiefly known for being the movie in which Ronald Reagan met Jane Wyman.   Brother Rat and a Baby?  Well, I doubt if it's known for anything at all, but TMC had it recently, and I'll watch any Reagan movie if I get a chance.

Alas, it's pretty much of a mess.  Reagan is the third-billed (male) actor, behind Wayne Morris and Albert.  And I have to say, he does virtually nothing with the role...pretty much disappears from the movie.  I'd follow Garry Wills on this: Reagan was really at his best when he was playing against type: as the wild friend to the mama's boy in King's Row, Reagan's congeniality makes it clear that the "bad" boy is just living life, not bad at all.  Here, Reagan plays the well-behaved one to Wayne Morris's schemer, and there's not much there but some mannered fussing and worrying.

The movie itself?  Well, there's a plot of sorts, but it's not what you're watching for -- the point of the movie is the madcap situations, and they're just not really madcap enough to hold anyone's attention.  Morris and Albert give it their best, and the actresses are okay but forgettable (and, really, they're not asked to do much).  Oh, and there's a baby, and he's supposed to be cute, adorable, and a big addition to the madcap, but it just doesn't work.

So, see it if you're a Reagan completist, but it's not one of those that really adds to your understanding of either Reagan the politician or Reagan the actor.  As I've said before, the essential ones after King's Row are probably Hellcats of the Navy, Knute Rockne, and Murder in the Air; or, if you want an obscure one, try Juke Girl.  And for all I know, Brother Rat is good; it certainly was good enough to earn a sequel.  Their mistake.  Stick to Witch Mountain.

4 comments:

  1. Two Eddie Albert movies I like a lot come to mind: Attack! and Roman Holiday. The former also features Jack Palance at his best.

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  2. I actually watched Witch Mountain not too long ago for the first time as an adult. It's a film I always liked as a kid, because it appealed to all the fantasies I used to have of having special powers and being involved in some kidnap-rescue plot. As an adult, however, I found myself suddenly aware of something I had never noticed about the film as a kid, which was the dreadful acting of the two children. I also recently saw the new version starring The Rock, and it managed to take away just about everything that made the original appealing.

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  3. Yeah, the kids are the weak link in it, but c'mon: you have three Columbo villains in it (outside of their other impressive accomplishments); what else do you want? Alas, in the sequel, the kids are even worse, plus they've outgrown their cuteness. And everything else is worse, too.

    Are any of the Disney live action remakes any good? I've skipped all of them.

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  4. It would appear that the main interest in BROTHER RAT AND A BABY is contrasting the military records of its stars. Wayne Morris: fighter pilot who received four Distinguished Flying Crosses and two Air Medals. Eddie Albert: pre-war agent for Army Intelligence, then served in the Navy and the Naval Reserve; received a Bronze Star for rescuing 47 Marines under heavy fire. Ronald Reagan: made some Army training films.

    (Yes, I relied on Wikipedia for the details.)

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